Despite Buffalo Schools Academic Achievement Some Obstacles Still Remain

by Kat Massey

First, high hats off to Superintendent Kriner Cash, the students, teachers and staff-at-large for the commendable increase in academic achievement at the Buffalo Public Schools (BPS).

   Unfortunately, some obstacles remain. For instance, news coverage has indicated there is an on-going, considerable shortage of teachers for Science, Math and numerous languages. (More than 80 languages are spoken throughout the school system.) One story highlighted the BPS is creatively seeking to attract language teachers even from Puerto Rico.

 Secondly, this note of caution:Teachers must be proficient in the subjects they teach! Any teacher that can’t correctly construct sentences, paragraphs and essays should not be an English [language] instructor, The local daily news spotlighted the removal of the essay section from teacher candidates’ tests because a considerable number were failing it. 

Third, negotiations for a new teachers’ contract are on the horizon.A few years ago — an online review revealed, in detail, the past contract — which existed for 12 years prior to the current one (approved in 2016). 

Two tidbits highlighted were: teachers only paid about $600, per year, toward their “fixed” pension (during 12 years) and they were entitled to more than 200 “accrued” sick days. That exceeded the amount of days in a school year which are less than 190 days. (I don’t know if that changed with the 2016 contract.)

Also, it concluded the State hamstrings the BPS system, by their imposed payment calculation for the teachers’ pension funding. Specifically, out of proportion, more dollars have to be accounted for — in the Buffalo system’s fiscal budget, yearly — than other, select NYS school systems. 

It continued that if not required, it would free up significant money for other uses in the schools. However, the STATE has to make the change. 

 Lastly, with the student-centric New Education Bargain in need of sufficient funding — along with other productive initiatives — it seems an immediate action plan (for Dr. Cash; the BPS Chief Financial Officer; Buffalo Teachers Federation; Legislators; Stakeholders; Clergy; etc.) — needs to be their solicitations to the Commissioner of Education, MaryEllen Elia — asking her to pursue persuading the State  to allow the Buffalo Schools’ system the advantageous, less financially burdensome pension funding method,  that benefits only some of the NYS school systems.